Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER)
Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER)
Nieuwegein, Netherlands

Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research (DIFFER)

Science for future energy

The issues of energy and climate change require us to develop sustainable energy on a global scale. This transition is one of mankind’s biggest challenges in this century and its success depends on our solving a score of scientific questions.

Our mission

The Dutch Institute for Fundamental Energy Research DIFFER wants to conduct leading fundamental research in the fields of fusion and solar fuels, in close partnership with academia and industry. To successfully transfer fundamental insights to society at large, we are actively building an energy science society through the formation of multidisciplinary networks.

Fusion research

Fusion energy has the potential to deliver concentrated, safe and clean energy from the process powering the sun and stars. DIFFER has two fusion research programs, which both address high priority topics in the European Fusion Roadmap. We explore the intense plasma surface interactions expected at the wall of future fusion power plants with our unique high-flux plasma generators Magnum-PSI and Pilot- PSI. In such reactors, control of the burning plasma is of crucial importance to efficient operation and in our second fusion program, we develop insights and control systems for the magnetohydrodynamic instabilities in a fusion reactor.  DEMO: The step between ITER and a commercial power plant. DEMO will mark the first step of fusion power into the energy market by supplying electricity to the grid. DEMO will largely build on the ITER experience. The construction has to begin in the early 2030s to meet the goal of fusion electricity demonstration by 2050.

Solar fuels research

On the shorter timescale, the big challenge in the energy transition is to integrate fluctuating sustainable electricity in an infrastructure which demands predictable power production. This is closely connected to the issue of global energy storage and transport, and at DIFFER we aim to tackle this challenge by converting intermittent sustainable energy into fuels. For instance, DIFFER investigates the splitting of water into hydrogen or the activation of carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, and the processing of these products into a hydrocarbon fuel. The research involves the synthesis and design of novel materials and processes to obtain scalable, efficient and cost-effective systems.

Building an energy science society

The transition to a fully sustainable energy system is a global challenge, with players from all fields of science, industry and politics. For the Netherlands to participate in this task, it needs a strong and coherent national research program. A well-connected and collaborative network researchers is a promising soil for innovative breakthroughs in sustainable energy. DIFFER wishes to play a national role in basic energy research by helping develop a multidisciplinary community focused on science for future energy.


PhD position: Numerical modelling of plasma detachment and SOL physics in linear and toroidal geometry
This PhD project involves the modelling of so-called plasma detachment in tokamak divertors and in linear devices like MAGNUM-PSI used to simulate tokamak divertor conditions. The detached plasma state is characterized by a strong reduction of heat and particle loads to the...
PhD position: The effect of magnetic flux expansion on the threshold and stability of plasma detachment in tokamak divertors
A key challenge in the development of fusion power plants is figuring out how to exhaust the gigawatts of liberated fusion power from the machine without damaging the walls surrounding the plasma. A significant fraction of this power (hundreds of megawatts) will be transported...
PhD position: Developing controllers for a physics-based model of the L-H transition in a tokamak
The PhD project involves physics of magnetically confined plasma for fusion energy and control theory. In a magnetic confinement fusion reactor it may prove desirable to operate at the minimum power that allows for so-called H-mode energy confinement. At lower power a...
PhD-position: Coupled core and edge impurity modellingin high-radiation-fraction tokamak scenarios
The exhaust of heat and particles is recognized as one of the largest outstanding challenges in nuclear fusion research. This requires maintaining a high performance fusion plasma, while ensuring that the unprecedented power exhaust does not damage the reactor walls. This is...
Postdoc position: A tangential Thomson scattering diagnostic for high resolution pedestal characterization
Research To operate fusion reactors efficiently, a high confinement is needed. Above a certain threshold in input heating power, a tokamak plasma spontaneously makes a transition from a low confinement (L-mode) regime, to a high confinement (H-mode) regime, almost doubling the...